What are the Brexiters up to?

There are some British politicians who’re comfortable with the UK leaving the EU without a deal. This is an outcome that most people who know about international trade suggest would cause quite considerable disruption, but according to the UK government, we would have “sufficient calories” to survive. So that’s OK then. It’s not going to cause a famine. The international trade secretary, Dr. Liam Fox goes further suggesting a no deal Brexit would not be “Dunkirk”. So not as bad as the complete destruction of the British and allied French armies as a fighting force for the next two years. Again, I can’t wait. Brexit has an image problem. Even its cheerleaders are no longer talking about the “opportunities” leading to “sunlit uplands”, and everyone’s talking about the looming catastrophe with the resigned fatalism of a Londoner sitting in the tube during the Blitz.

May’s deal, painstakingly negotiated over the last 2 years delivers a UK out of the political structures of the EU eventually, but without a catastrophic break in the country’s trading relationships with its nearest and most important trading partners. Nor, crucially does it expect anyone, now or in the future, to have to man a customs post on the border in South Armagh.

May’s is not a perfect deal, and I imagine a politician with more charm, who didn’t put an end to “free movement” front and centre of her strategy could have got a better deal from Brussels. But I doubt even then, it would look all that much different. This is what brexit looks like, and it stinks as much as everyone who can spell said it would.

Now, were I minded to deliver Brexit, I would take what’s on offer, because outside the EU, parliament can subsequently move the UK into the EU structures where necessary; on Science or Security co-operation, at the same time cutting our sails differently on, for example trade. May’s deal does ultimately deliver the “freedom” the Brexiters crave from the diktats of the EU commission. We can, in time, deliver the regulatory divergence that is apparently so crucial (and yet, so vaguely so) to the Brexiters. And what has also become clear in the last few months is that the alternative to May’s careful compromise isn’t a glorious “clean break” Brexiters claim to want, but remaining in the EU.

Parliamentary brexiters, the people who’ve banged on about nothing else for 30 years, are tomorrow going to vote against the only chance they will ever have to leave the EU.

But I don’t think a reasonable Brexit is what the parliamentary Brexiters are, or ever were after. They wanted chaos, because it fits their self-image as revolutionaries. It’s like someone turning up at a war, expecting bayonet charges, but discovering what it mostly involves is weary trudging hither and thither with an enormous rucksack, while under constant artillery fire. More mud, more fear, more fatigue, much less (if any) glory. Brexiters in parliament never wanted to win, because then they would then have to deliver, a task from which they have habitually fled. But because no man is “Sir Robin” in his own story, they will construct a self-image of a glorious last charge. We are watching a film directed by Daniel Hannan’s ego starring Jacob Rees-Mogg, as the leader of a band of aging but doughty freedom fighters in their final campaign against the mighty forces of the evil EUSSR. The parliamentary Brexit cause is the last charge of stupid old gits who’ve watched Wild Geese too many times.

“Whatever happens”, they reason, “at least we tried”.

But they didn’t. Not really.

These old fools will try to sell you a ‘stab in the back‘ myth next. I’ve seen this film before too, and I don’t like the ending.

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